Happy Easter everyone!
So much to savour at Easter time! The Easter bunnies, Easter eggs, lots of chocolate, family and friends get-togethers – and so many opportunities for pleasure and positive emotions – all factors proven to positively impact psychological well-being – well in moderation that is!
And for many of us it’s the first real break that we’ve had since Christmas so we may find ourselves collapsing into Easter to rest and recover to be reborn again until the next mini-break – being the Queens Birthday weekend in June!
Yes Easter gives a chance to take a break, catch our breath, and hopefully the opportunity to share the joy with people we love, before returning to the frenetic pace of modern day living.
But what of the historical meaning of Easter?
Whilst most of us understand that Easter represents the time of Jesus Christ's resurrection, many may not know that the festival of Easter existed in pre-Christian times and according to a famous Christian Saint was named for the German goddess Eôstre (pronounced East-ra), the "goddess of dawn". The word Ēostre apparently also means “to shine". Eôstre is associated with renewal of life. She is associated with springtime, fertility, the hare and Easter!
However in modern times, festivals like Easter and Christmas often seem to have lost their original meaning, simply becoming holidays or times of conspicuous consumption. We don’t realise that in celebrating Easter, we are participating in an age-old ritual celebrating the return to the light after a period of darkness and death.
What might this mean for us in modern times?
This Easter take some time out to reflect on the need for rest, renewal and resurrection in your life? Have you created enough mini-breaks besides Easter and Christmas to fully recharge in 2016? What other rest and renewal periods do you prioritise in your life to enable rebirth and resurrection?
And to make the most of the Easter period for rest, renewal and rebirth here’s a few suggestions:
- Sleep in… A study at the University of Chicago found that sleeping less than six hours a night causes a 40 per cent drop in sensitivity to insulin. This, in turn, increases the risk of developing weight gain, obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes – all conditions that can shorten your lifespan.
- Meditate. There are increasing amounts of research that show that those who engage in regular meditation practices report higher levels of well-being. Research also suggests that meditating for just 30 minutes a day for eight weeks can increase the density of gray matter in brain regions associated with memory, stress, and empathy.
- Take a stroll. When you’re on a break, learn to walk for pleasure rather than for getting from A to B. The Italians call it the passegiata and it’s often taken before dinner. Also consider mindful walking – In a one study, researchers divided 135 people into five groups of walkers for 16 weeks. One group walked briskly. Group 2 walked at a slow pace, group 3 walked at a slow pace while practicing mindfulness, group 4 practiced tai chi, and group 5 changed nothing about their lives. The researchers found that the group practicing mindfulness while walking had a significant reduction in anxiety. They also had more positive and less negative feelings about themselves, and that the benefits were noticed immediately.
- Switch off. Will the world end if you don’t update your status on Facebook, miss a tweet or two over Easter? Research has shown that the brain doesn’t do multitasking well and taking a break can be good for you. Individuals who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time, a group of Stanford researchers has found.
- Diarise R & R – “rest & resurrection”. Tal Ben Shahar, a leading Positive Psychologist suggests diarising micro, mezzo and macro breaks. Micro breaks are the ten minutes breaks you need to take regularly throughout the day (a great opportunity to do a 5 minute mindfulness exercise!). Mezzo breaks are the traditional “mini-breaks”, the 3 day weekend we all need at least every 3 months! The macro break is the annual holiday and we really need this to be bi-annual rather than annual! Grab your diary now and commit to action! You’ll have something to look forward to and be doing yourself a big favour when it comes to your psychological well-being!
And finally a quote to reflect on at Easter:
Let us be lazy in everything, except in loving and drinking, and of course in being lazy!
Lots of love, PI & I (Suzy)